Saturday, 1 July 2017

Meeting Christopher Robin in Dartmouth

I'm afraid I'm cheating a little bit this week. The last couple of weeks have been manic and today when I intended to write this week's blog, we had a 3 hour power cut! So, I recently did a weekend blitz blog tour for the paperback publication of my book The Little Kiosk By The Sea which is set in Dartmouth, South Devon. For one of the blogs I was asked to write for, I talked about inspiration.  For those that missed it on the blog tour I thought I'd post it here.

Dartmouth is an inspirational place - it inspires me anyway, even though I rarely get to visit these days. Writers, artists, actors, film makers have all come to Dartmouth for one reason or another. 

Down the years there have been many famous people born or associated with the town. My favourite ‘celebrity’ (how he’d hate me using that word) was my boss who became a friend, Christopher Robin.

When we first moved to Dartmouth I was thrilled to get a job in The Harbour Bookshop owned and run by Christopher and his wife Lesley. For a bookworm and aspiring writer it was the perfect job for me.

For many years The Harbour Bookshop was at the hub of all things Dartmouth and Christopher himself was a major tourist draw. Something which he loathed, being essentially a very private and shy man. Many is the time I saw him making for the back stairs and escaping from the shop when the clamouring of tourists for his attention became too much. He never minded signing tattered copies of the ‘Pooh’ books clutched by wide eyed children as their grandmothers/mothers hovered anxiously in the background, but he was never entirely happy having to make small talk with strangers. But however much he hated being in the limelight he was always unfailing polite to those demanding his attention and autograph. 

The above is the frontispiece of one of his acclaimed autobiography volumes - he wrote three in all after he gave up running the bookshop. He kindly signed and gave me all three. Sadly one of the three, The Enchanted Places was lent to a friend and never returned.

Christopher and Lesley ran the bookshop for 30 years and during the Sixties and Seventies were heavily involved with the School Libraries Association, helping to instil a love of books in all children. The great sadness of Christopher’s life was that his beloved daughter Clare suffered from cerebral palsy and he was never able to give her the childhood he wanted. A keen environmentalist he loved the countryside and was never happier than when at home in the countryside outside Dartmouth.

I learnt a lot about books, the world of publishing and about life in general whilst working for Christopher all those years ago. One of the disappointments of my life is that he’d died before my first novel was published and his iconic Harbour Bookshop had closed its doors, thus deny me the opportunity of seeing any of my novels on the shelves.  

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  1. How lucky you are to have known him Jennie. He sounds truly inspiring!

  2. Thank you Gill. He was lovely. Had a sad life really.

  3. Gosh, what an unusual position he found himself in, Jennie. Lovely that you have such fond memories of time working in his bookshop.

  4. And I remember meeting him too ..... nice little trip down memory lane with this one,m Jennie.